Wendy has a great post of photos that she took at Nuit Blanche. They are some of her best shots in a fairly challenging low light setting.
It’s been a long summer but one of the highlights was spending some time with the 2014 Ford Escape. I reviewed in 2013 and the SUV is essentially the same. Instead of just driving it around Saskatoon (done that before), I decided to take it on the road. This is after all where a crossover is supposed to come in useful isn’t it (that and as a hockey kid taxi). So the four of us got up really early one Sunday and took a long one day drive from Saskatoon to Drumheller and back. It’s around 1000km in a day if you are keeping track. At the end of the trip we were going to either love or hate the 2014 Ford Escape.
We packed relatively light. Even though it was a brand new vehicle we tossed our emergency kit in the back, three camera bags, a cooler, and some extra jackets in case the weather forecast was horribly wrong. That took up about 5% of the rear cargo space.
We got into Drumheller at about noon where the Ford Escape met this guy. I know I signed something that stopped people from smoking in the Ford Escape, I couldn’t remember if I was covered by stampeding dinosaurs. So I sent Mark and Oliver up to deal with the T-Rex.
After an epic struggle, they subdued the beat and saved the Escape.
I have driven from Saskatoon to Calgary many times and each time (generally at Hanna), I would get out and feel the pain in my back after four long hours of driving. This time it was completely different and here is why With the Escape, there was none of that. The air conditioner kept the kids cool while the heated seats kept Wendy and I feeling a lot more comfortable. If only they had a back massage feature.
After lunch we checked the GPS for directions to the Atlas Coal Mine. It couldn’t find it. It found every other little attraction in Drumheller but missed this one. Obviously Ford downloads these attractions from a database but I was surprised a National Historic Site was not on it. Ironically enough Siri with it’s much despised Apple Maps found us a way and we arrived after our failed conversation with Ford Sync. Apple 1 – Ford Sync 0.
Once at the Atlas Coal Mine, I discovered the true value of the Ford Escape. We explored an abandoned wooden bridge (which was home to rattlesnakes) and was almost completely rotten.
Explored the mine site
Wendy stumbled onto a model shoot
We took a mine tour
Climbed the “walk from hell” (this is important)
Where I tore my right quad and put myself in incredible pain (not all Ford reviews have happy endings). After heading back down the “walk from hell” (it’s what the miners called it), I limped back to the waiting Ford Escape while the family kept exploring (thanks guys!)
The pain was incredible, my leg was almost useless and I limped back to the vehicle in incredible pain. I got in and actually had to lift my leg inside, turned on the Escape, turned on the a/c and turned on the heated seat. It didn’t take away the pain but facing a five hour trip back to Saskatoon and realizing how much better it made my leg feel, it was amazing. (and made me add a tensor bandage and A535 to my emergency kit) when I got back into Drumheller.
I felt good enough to limp out and explore the Star Mine Suspension Bridge in Rosedale. While I never recommend walking on a moving suspension bridge with a torn quad, the heat kept it from getting really bad.
18 hours after, one rattlesnake sighting, two provinces, one radar dome, one torn quad, 1000 kms, three McDonald’s and one A&W run later, we rolled back into Saskatoon. Instead of whining and complaining despite being well past their bedtimes, the boys hopped out the car and Oliver said that was fun. He then hugged the Ford Escape goodnight. Yeah you read that right, after an 18 hour day, my six year old hugged the Escape.
It was then I realized why you want a 2014 Ford Escape. It is a lot of fun to drive in the city and the highway. It’s safe and like I wrote about the 2013 Ford Escape, it saved my families life when a guy lost control on icy roads. It looks great. Sirius XM radio is a lot of fun.
All of that is amazing but you buy one because the Escape facilitates fun times together with others. Whether that is an epic road trip with family or a weekend getaway with friends, it made a great trip better. It made a long day seem shorter. It made an improbable one day trip possible. It is small enough to be fun to drive but large enough that you can bring people along. It is everything a SUV should be. Since the first time I drove the Ford Escape, I fell in love with it and said that it was my favourite vehicle to drive. Since then it has become my families favourite vehicle as well. It facilitates fun.
You can read all about the technical specs here but in the end, they add up to one thing; great times spent together.
- I have been reviewing Ford cars for three years. Oliver is now six and since her first saw the Ford Sync GPS display, he has been fascinated. He sits in the back seat on a painful angle the entire time so he can see the display. That hasn’t changed. I hope to review a Ford car in 2015 just to see how long this continues. It’s weird. Of course the one advantage of Ford Sync GPS screens is not navigation but the fact that you never hear, “Are we there yet?”
- The bad thing about turn by turn instructions is that if you deviate off your course to take the scenic route (which I did), everyone panics and start back seat driving. Wendy is chirping at me, the boys are chirping at me. Sync is telling to “turn right, turn right, turn right”. I’m like, I just want see some scenery! EVERYONE CALM DOWN and Sync is still going, “turn right, turn right, turn right”. Why does no one trust me?!
- The Escape is fast. Shockingly fast for a SUV. Very comfortable to drive on a two lane highway. When I wanted to pass, I could.
- The Sync still crashes. Every Ford vehicle I have reviewed has had something go wrong with the Sync. The last time it wasn’t that bad but it asked me to go to a dealer. Turning the Escape off and on rebooted it (it is from Microsoft after all). Instead of asking me to go to a dealer, it should just say, restart your car. It’s not a big thing but I can’t believe it still does this. Then again, Microsoft. I should be used to it by now.
- Speaking of taking the scenic route, you will take more of them. The handling of the Escape is great and it kind of calls out for winding roads and rolling hills. A lot of fun.
- Even though the body design is older, it still turns heads. As I was limping towards the Star Mine Suspension Bridge someone turned and said, “that is a nice looking SUV”.
Mark starts high school tomorrow. He will wander out of here around 8:30 a.m. and is headed towards Bedford Road Collegiate where he will spend the next three and a half years of his life. He is talking about joining the Royal Canadian Navy after that so he can see the world before deciding on a career. We will see if the RCN has any floating ships left before he decides on his next step.
It was a hard decision for him to go to Bedford Road. He had wanted to go to E.D. Feehan High School but the lack of a football team doomed that decision. The lack of many sports made it exciting for him to go. He looked at Mount Royal and Marion M. Graham Collegiate and Bishop James Mahoney as well but the time on the bus was going to be significant. No one wants that long of commute just to go to high school.
The response from teachers and educators over him going to Bedford Road was tepid at best and downright hostile and discouraging at worse. Neighbors and friends had reservations. A friend of the families kid was robbed and then hit hard with a chain. Another kid was robbed at knife point. Saskatoon Public School Board teachers called the kids “rough”, “unteachable”, and talked of physical intimidation in the classroom. Two teachers told me they would resign rather than be appointed to Bedford. I don’t know if that was just talk but there are some polarizing feelings about the school. Considering it wasn’t a decision I was fond of in the first place (bad things always happened to me when I was in Bedford Road when I was a student) we really spent some time looking at our options and deciding what was best for Mark.
In defence of Bedford I was told of crime and thugs everywhere in the city. That may be true but according to Saskatoon Police Service crime maps, there is a propensity of violent and serious property crime in 2014 (and continuing throughout the spring) in Caswell Hill (and Mayfair). Assaults, robberies, drug related offences. It is all there and in a higher concentration then in other surrounding neighbourhoods in the city. Crime happens in the neighbourhood and the neighbourhoods where it’s students come from.
At the end of the day, crime is bad in our neighbourhood which has not been fun for the boys (it was last summer they were accosted by a high prostitute at 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday) and of course 2013 was the summer of gunshots and prostitutes working our street (which has stopped thankfully).
So yeah there is a basis for teachers to be concerned, I am not sure why all of the negativity that goes around Bedford (well I do actually, I have disliked the school since my friends stereo was stolen and then the guy tried to resell it back to us which there for a basketball game) and from westside teachers in general about being in inner city schools. I have heard the complaints about the lack of fundraising from parents (I was foolish enough to think that taxes paid for my kids education) to school fees not being paid on time (We know of one kid that was picking bottles to pay for his school fees this year), to a lack of school supplies. I am not sure it’s right to hate the kids for the environment that they come from.
I can’t speak to the physical intimidation part. I am 6’4. I am not physically intimidated by much anymore yet Wendy who is a foot shorter doesn’t feel a lot of fear in her workplace and it can and often is violent (shoplifters, drunks, drugs, mental health). Maybe there is a desensitization that happens that I am missing and that some don’t have. Maybe they shouldn’t be teaching on the westside and perhaps it is a flaw of the system that allows teachers to teach kids they don’t like or fear.
I also think the city does it weird with allowing Mark to go to any school he wants. It creates a system where his friends who want to ride the bus or have parents that wish to drive them daily, can go to any high school in the city and creates a weird feeling for those that “have” to go to their neighbourhood schools. In the case of E.D. Feehan, you have a school in a slow death spiral because why would you want to go to a school that has no amenities when you can go the new and cutting edge Bethlehem High School.
Finally, I think the school board has a morale problem when you have teachers speaking so poorly about Bedford Road and about the westside to parents and students. Those teachers are speaking about not just a school but their own colleagues and are prejudging students before the summer is over and the school year has begun.
Oddly enough the extremely poor teachers Mark has had previously makes it easier to disregard the advice about Bedford (he has had more good teachers than bad but he bad one was so bad I don’t think he would have survived a second year). Despite the degree, some people aren’t wired to teach some kids. Hopefully he finds teachers that are wired to teach, coach, and mentor and they out number the ones that don’t want to be there.
Mark will do fine but the process leading up tomorrow left me with a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach.
I gave Mark an Sony Xperia J last Christmas which he loved. He thought it was the greatest phone ever, even if it wasn’t. The Sony Xperia J has a memory problem that means that it doesn’t handle apps well. I am not sure why this version of Android on this phone acts so poorly but according to the tech forums, it does.
The phone broke this summer and all of a sudden Mark’s attitude changed for the better. So much that we had some very long talks about it. He told me he missed being able to talk to his friends and Wendy and I via text but he didn’t really miss his phone very much. He was kind of glad that he didn’t have it around. He was funnier, more laid back, and said he was sleeping better.
It wasn’t the phone that was the problem, it was that he would find some time and play some games that would keep him on it for hours. He was like a lot of youth, addicted to their phone.
So we talked about the kind of phone that we would get. I decided on getting him a Blackberry Curve. It would let him text others and not be distracted by other stuff. Virgin Mobile’s was $150 which I found a little steep. Telus had one for $100 so I decided to make the switch. He isn’t under contract so I set off to Best Buy and get his phone. While I was there, I saw they had a Nokia Lumia 520 for Windows Phone for $110. I was torn over what phone to get but in the end it was the constant barrage of Windows Phone tweets by Darren Sproat that won me over. I haven’t heard of anyone excited over a Blackberry since 2005.
I set it up with Telus who has far inferior pre-paid plans than Virgin Mobile and gave it to Mark. The next day the phone wasn’t working. I called back and Telus said that they hadn’t gotten paid. I had a receipt and a confirmation number from Mastercard and still that wasn’t enough. It was kind of weird.
So I took Mark’s phone to Tech Box. I had never been in there and they unlocked the phone for $20. It took a couple of days more than they said (the first code was slow coming and then didn’t work) but they told me that one of them would be in the office on a Sunday and to stop by. We did, they unlocked the doors, and the phone was working. He was thrilled.
So I set up Mark’s phone for him and I have really come to like it. It doesn’t have all of the apps that the iPhone or Android does but I was able to get him…
- The Score
- A podcast app
- Weather app
He told me today that he misses having a StarPhoenix app but other than that, he is set. Internet Explorer isn’t that bad on the phone either. I didn’t install any games and he is fine with that. The phone is pretty snappy and the tiles feature of Windows 8 is designed for a phone (and not a computer screen). It works really well. I have told a couple of people that while I love my iPhone, I could switch to Windows Phone and be perfectly happy. Especially when I think that I spent $110 for the phone.
There are some other cool stuff installed for apps like a transit app (that doesn’t work in Saskatoon because we don’t make our route information available like most other cities). Bing Maps is no better or worse than Apple Maps (actually it is probably better).
So back to Mark. He’s happy with the phone. He likes not having a phone with the distractions of games and then frustrated over not getting other things done. He’s like a lot of 14 year olds but with this phone, he seems to have found a mix of being connected and not being too connected. We will see how it goes.
As I mentioned before, I gave Oliver my old Fujifilm J10 for his birthday. The camera has served me well but it is obsolete and has been replaced. That being said, it is perfect for a six year old who loves taking photos.
To show off those photos, Oliver is now on Flickr at flickr.com/oliver_cooper. His perspective is a little lower to the ground than most of us but he manages to get some fun shots. Since your first 10,000 photos are going to be your worst, he is well ahead of many of us in that regard.
Of course the bad news is that he still can barely read and doesn’t have a computer. At the same time he is rather particular about his photos which means that I get to argue with him every time I downtown his card over which photo is any good or not. So far I am winning (no selfies) but that won’t continue for long.
On Friday evening we headed to the cabin for what we expected was going to be a wet and miserable weekend. It was but we had a good time.
Oliver was quite sick on Friday morning which meant that Wendy took the day off. His daycare has a thing about vomitting kids… They picked me up at work and we were off to the lake and got in there in decent time.
I am nursing an incredibly sore hip so I hobbled in and went to bed. The boys took Maggi for a long walk and swim in the lake and I was awoken by a wet dog looking to warm up with someone. Saturday I picked up Oliver’s flu and felt horrible. Wendy delegated the job of packing Oliver’s stuff to Mark and he didn’t pack any socks and underwear for Oliver so off to Regina we went. 18km of really soft and sloppy roads were not a lot of fun to drive but we made it to the highway.
The rain kept falling the entire time we were in Regina and the road was a slippery and muddy mess by the time we got back to Cymric. It was a long slow drive back to the cabin where I managed to lose control once. Not only that but we realized it was going to rain all night and into Sunday.
Here is Speck speaking to TED.
So yeah the drive home was brutal. The car was covered in mud and it was hard to keep it on the road. For those who feel that Saskatchewan should be converting more highways into gravel, I respectfully disagree. The sand base of that road makes more slippery then ice when wet. So yeah, let’s pave the entire province.
So now that Oliver is six, he wants to walk to school by himself. So today he walked the half block to school and was set to play with his friends.
For his birthday, Jerry and Gloria gave him a great Lego Batman set with the Riddler, Flash, and of course Batman. He knows he isn’t supposed to bring toys to school. They get stolen and he is often heart broken but being six and so very proud of his Batman he did anyways. You know he lost it.
I heard him crying on the way home with Mark. He wasn’t mad but heart broken. He confessed to me that he had snuck Batman to school and it had gotten lost before he broke down and went to bed. He was that broken up over it.
I lost things as a kid as well and my dad was an ass about it most times and would lecture me about how irresponsible I was. Of course I was irresponsible, I was five. So instead of taking that approach, I logged online and eventually found the Lego Canada store and ordered him a new one. Of course it was a total ripoff and for what I paid in shipping, I kind of hope the real Batman delivers it in person.
That probably makes me a bad father but it sucks losing stuff as a kid, especially when it is brand new. He already knows that he shouldn’t have taken his toy to school. I am not sure punishing him further makes it any better. It didn’t for me. I never lost my favourite stuff on purpose. Neither does he.
The good news is that Oliver is happy and it curled up on the couch lobbying for some leftover birthday cake. He tells me his stomach doesn’t hurt anymore and is kind of hungry.
While the rest of the world celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday this weekend, we are celebrating Mark turning 14 at the cabin.
He has been saving up for a DLSR camera for months. When I upgraded my Pentax K-x, he thought I traded it in for a new camera. Instead I took it upstairs and have been saving it to give him for his birthday.
After having the camera’s sensor cleaned, I bought him a new 16 GB memory card and cleaned all of the lens up perfectly (if you don’t have a Lens Pen, you are doing it all wrong).
Wendy and I had bought him a a new Roots sling camera bag and placed the camera in along with some of my older lenses. Along with the camera, I gave him this 18-55mm lens that came with the camera, a really sharp manual 50mm lens, a Pentax 100-300 lens, and a Takumar-F 28-80mm manual lens (that to be honest, really sucks) but it will give him a macro to play with. I have an older Sigma 70-210 lens that I may give him as well but I am awaiting a replacement for it. Until then he can borrow it.
To celebrate his birthday we are heading north from the cabin for a long nature walk along the shores of Last Mountain Lake where we will hopefully get some shots of some birds and someone can test out his new camera. I expect you will see some photos of the day as soon as we get back into the city.
Mark blogs about his birthday here.
In isolation, most of us wither psychologically and crumble physically. In 1979, a California epidemiological study showed that the risk of death during a given period among people with the fewest social ties was more than twice as high as in those with the most. Some experts have suggested that isolation, perceived or objective, should be commonly considered alongside things like obesity as a serious health hazard. One study found social isolation was as strong of a predictor of mortality as smoking. People with heart disease are 2.4 times more likely to die of it if they are socially isolated. We could go on and on with these decades of pro-social correlations.
So the point here is relationships are like almonds. We know that if you eat almonds, you increase your odds of living longer—unless you hate almonds so much that eating them sends you into a rage, raising your blood pressure, and you eat them every day until at some point the hypertension eventually causes a stroke. Yes, just like almonds. The objective nature of what’s said or done between people converges with our personalities to create perceptions of that relationship, and that’s what matters and (seems to) significantly influence our bodies. “Certain personality traits may promote the reporting of any social relation as stressful,” the researchers write, “and therefore strong correlations between measures of stressful social relations would be expected.”
Men did seem more physically vulnerable to worries and demands from their partner than did women, which is in keeping with a scientific understanding of men’s health as especially relationship-dependent. Men release more cortisol in response to stress than women do, and marriage has proven more beneficial to men’s health than to women’s. And it was Harry Nilsson, not Mariah Carey, who was first moved to popularize Badfinger’s “Without You” in 1971 by really drawing out the emotive i in the line, “I can’t liiive if living is without you.”
As with gender, costs and benefits of social relationships don’t play out equally across socioeconomic strata. People on the lower end have the highest levels of social stress, which Lund suggests is due to a lack of health-promoting coping strategies among people who have fewer “intrapsychic and social resources.” People disadvantaged by income, education, or occupational status have “higher social vulnerability towards several types of major personal events such as income loss, ill health, divorce and death of a loved one.”
What about me? I love almonds except that I am allergic to them. I am so confused as to what to do with my life. That metaphor doesn’t work for me!!!!!!!!